Why do crushes get such a bad reputation when they really do serve a purpose? Sure, they are heart breaking, gut wrenching, and soul crushing monsters of disappointment that can make you worry about your own attractiveness and even self-worth for years, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them.

I was a late bloomer, to say the least. Sigh… let’s not even talk about how emotionally and physically immature I was compared to my classmates. In fact most of these “crushes” I had were in high school. This crush phase was so innocent and fruitless that it was more on par with what most girls my age went through in middle school. My kind of high school crush was more one of admiration rather than desire. I don’t even really wanted to “go out” with them. I had no idea what people did on dates. I imagined dates were a lot like “hanging out” only with hickies. I had no idea. Yes, there was one boy in particular that I guess I “desired” but even that was purely theoretical.

My first “crush” I guess was in the fourth grade. This is the first time that I even noticed boys existed let alone had any value. I remember I liked a boy who rode my bus. I liked him because he was cute, whatever that meant, and he was smart, in all of the enrichment classes and I remember he had one of his stories posted on the teacher’s bulletin board with a big red “A+.” Perhaps that is what impressed me the most.

Junior high I barely attended and would really rather not recall a single moment of that hell. Let’s move on.

The boy I remember liking the earliest and the most after my first crush on the “A+” kid was someone in the band. We had many shared activities including choir and church. How a band geek from church could get me so hot, I still do not know. If I were honest with myself I believe that my fantacism for Christ was really my love for this boy.

He was like Jesus to me, and the Devil. My sin and my salvation.

He was like Jesus to me, and the Devil. My sin and my salvation. I would lie down my life for him. Sell my soul for just a kiss. I sought for his attention like pilgrims seek enlightenment. Oh, how I prayed that he would just talk to me, touch me, make me real. Save me from the sin of desire. A thousand sins of the heart and in the flesh I committed alone in his name.

Okay, he did not really look like Gerard Butler, but that's how I remember him.

Every other girl I knew liked him too. He hit puberty light years before any of the other boys. He had a hairy chest and could grow almost a full beard in the tenth grade. For some reason, my fourteen-year-old self found this irresistible. He also had nice broad shoulders and a low singing voice. He was also shorter than me. I was pretty tall, I guess I still am, but this was not a detraction. I just wanted to be near him but wanted him to not be intimidated my height (or size) and this is where I cultivated the practice of standing up straight from my torso so I’d look sophisticated (and supposedly thinner) yet I’d cock one leg out to the side and bend one knee to appear shorter. I find myself still doing this from time to time. It was won my absolutely no favors, only the left heels of my shoes wear out faster than my right.

I “loved” this boy, or as much as a one-sided teenaged love can be. He could do no wrong, I would defend him to the death even though I knew he was, at times, unkind to other girls when he’d spurn their affection, but he never once gave me any hint that there was a even a glimmer of hope we’d ever be an item. It did kill me when he dated a neighbor of mine. She was thin, blonde, and beautiful. I could hardly blame him. I’d choose her over me too. It was hopeless, and therefore pure and untainted by experience.

To this day, almost twenty years later, I still love him. I have met him a few times in the recent past and he still makes my heart skip a beat. The first few minutes of even the most casual meeting I find myself finding it hard to believe. The first time I met him after a ten year absence he was with his girlfriend. She looked just like me. It pissed me off. She was tall, dark haired, a little heavy and thick in the thigh. We both were even had similar jobs. I felt betrayed. All this time I loved him. I was married at the time, but still. If I knew he were into chubby girls…. I wondered if I did have some kind of influence on him in some way. I hope I influenced him a little when he so impacted my young life. I still measure love and attraction based on the model of my love for him.

Not really me, but you get the idea.

When we have talked as adults in flashes I remember when my love for him would keep me up at night exploring my body in the dark of my room feeling the delight of my body, the thrill of the thought of him mixed with Midwestern church-girl shame. But now, as adults, still knowing that “Us” will never happen, what once was love now feels more like nostalgia, He also says that I am the only girl he “never messed up with.” He was a bit of a player for a time. He had the kind of face and swagger that could let him get away with it. He needs his image to remain pure in at least one girl’s memory. It is for both our egos that we do not muddy that image with too much experience.

One of my first novel efforts was about teens growing up in an Evangelical church. He smiled shyly and asked if he was in it. I did not lie. He already knew he was. Sometimes I wonder if everything I write is for or because of love. I asked him if he thought he would be the villian or the hero. He said, “Why not both?”

So that is what he is. Villian, Hero, Romantic Lead, Object of Affection, the mold in which I fashion all my futures loves. And he knows it. And now the world does. And I don’t care. Never be ashamed of love. Even when you are in love all on your own. There is always something to be learned. More on that later.

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